Hurry Up and Wait -- A Guide to Stumbling Through the Doldrums of Production
It's bound to happen. You've spent weeks or even months writing scripts, getting actors, locking down locations -- then your lead actor books a job and is sent to Iceland for 4 months. Or your collaborator quits. Or gets pancreatitis. Point is, when you're making movie magic, things are never going to go perfectly. If they even go smoothly, count your stars. But more often than not, you'll run into some sort of crippling issue at the last second you'd want to.
So what do you do? Hang up your camera, your pen, and retire? Cry? Here's a few tips to survive a production stall -- all based on my own experiences losing a hero location right before a multi-week shoot:
1. SHARPEN YOUR AXE
Progress begets progress, and it's easy to let a stall in your plans become an opportunity to kick up your feet and relax. But stay vigilant! I can't tell you how many projects have been lost to stalled momentum, stalled passion, and eventually a total lack of interest. In fact, this delay is a golden opportunity to prepare. As Abraham Lincoln said, give me 4 hours to chop a tree and I'll spend the first three hours sharpening my axe. How's your marketing plan? Do you have a logline for the project/series? Could the scripts use punching up? Are there any new festivals that your project would be the right fit for? Take the time you'd normally waste in a holding pattern and put it to good use. When you're finally ready to slice into production, you'll cut through it like buttah.
2. GO INTO YOUR DESK DRAWER
Got ants in your pants waiting to pick things back up? Take a look in your own personal archive -- it may be time to dust off that feature from senior year. Is it good? Hell no. But writing is re-writing. See what magic your years-older brain can infuse into that dusty old script. Great ideas never die -- they just get repurposed. See what you can do for yourself!
3. 'ANYTHING BUT' TIME
As a writer, I'm constantly aware of the nagging need to...write. Sometimes -- and especially when another project is on hold -- that nagging can reach a fever pitch. When that happens, I block out creative time for Anything But Writing. In my ABW time, I'm free to do anything creative. Futz around on my guitar, watch an interesting documentary, record a one-off podcast -- anything to keep me away from writing. And because the human mind is crazy, nothing makes me want to write more than exercising my creative muscles in a different realm.
4. CHILL OUT!
Especially once the shit hits the production fan, its easy to let your anxieties creep in. You should be doing X, did you look into Y? Where the fuck is Z?! But don't forget that the human mind needs rest and relaxation just as much as it needs stimulation. Don't be afraid to find the yang to your ying by taking a creative or productive hiatus. Hit the beach. Binge all 3 extended editions of Lord of the Rings. Throw out your Blu-Ray copies of The Hobbit, because c'mon. Don't be afraid to let your lazy flag lie -- creation is an act of God, and even HE rested on the Seventh Day!
So by all means, wish your Brad-Pitt-to-be a cheery Icelandic goodbye. You know exactly what to do with your brief and unexpected production hiatus.
ANY OTHER TIPS? SHARE WITH THE CLASS!